Pubdate: Wed, 29 Jun 2016
Source: Press Democrat, The (Santa Rosa, CA)
Copyright: 2016 Associated Press
Author: Jonathan J. Cooper, Associated Press


SACRAMENTO (AP) - California voters will decide whether to legalize 
recreational marijuana after Secretary of State Alex Padilla said 
Tuesday that initiative proponents turned in more than enough 
signatures to place the question on the November ballot.

A successful vote in California would mean one in every six Americans 
lives in a state with legal marijuana sales, including the entire West Coast.

The initiative is promoted by a well-funded and politically connected 
coalition spearheaded by former Facebook president Sean Parker.

"Today marks a fresh start for California, as we prepare to replace 
the costly, harmful and ineffective system of prohibition with a 
safe, legal and responsible adult-use marijuana system that gets it 
right and completely pays for itself," Jason Kinney, a campaign 
spokesman, said in a statement.

It asks voters to allow people 21 and older to buy an ounce of 
marijuana and marijuana-infused products at licensed retail outlets 
and also grow up to six pot plants for personal recreational use.

Smoking weed would remain off-limits in places where tobacco use 
already is prohibited, including restaurants, bars and other enclosed 
public places.

Sales of both recreational pot and medical marijuana initially would 
be subject to a 15 percent excise tax. Cities and counties would 
retain the right to prohibit pot-related businesses and to impose 
their own fees and taxes.

State officials estimate the measure would raise as much as $1 
billion per year in revenue and reduce public safety costs - for 
police, courts, jails and prisons - by tens of millions. Provisions 
of the initiative, which requires a simple majority vote to pass, 
would direct most proceeds to covering regulatory costs, research on 
the effects of legalization, environmental mitigation, substance 
abuse treatment and other purposes.

It has drawn support from the California NAACP, the California 
Medical Association and the California Democratic Party. Sponsors are 
promoting it as a civil rights issue, arguing that minority 
communities suffer a disproportionate share of drug crimes and 
arrests. They also say the initiative would make it harder for people 
under 21 to obtain pot and easier for police to crack down on illicit 
sales than it has been in the two decades since California became the 
first U.S. state to legalize medical marijuana.

Opponents include the California Republican Party, the Teamsters 
Union and groups representing police chiefs and hospitals.

"The dangers of marijuana are pretty clear in terms of motorist 
safety, criminal activity, impacts on society," said Cory Salzillo, 
legislative director of the California State Sheriffs' Association. 
"We don't believe that decriminalization will upend the black market."

California voters rejected pot legalization by 7 percentage points in 
2010, two years before western states began liberalizing their 
approach to pot. Colorado and Washington became the first states to 
allow recreational sales in 2012, followed two years later by Alaska 
and Oregon.

Initiatives allowing for casual use have qualified for November 
ballots in Nevada and Maine.
- ---
MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom